Turning Workarounds Into Workflow in Veterinary Practice

The good news? People care about their animals and are increasingly seeking medical care for them, creating a high demand for state-of-the-art veterinary hospitals.

The bad news? Every veterinary practice team I talk with is struggling. The same challenges come up over and over:

  • “We’re understaffed”
    Struggling to hire and retain teammates
  • “We’re too busy”
    Struggling to keep the team organized and efficient
  • “We’re underpaid”
    Struggling to effectively capture charges

Sound familiar?

Often, a practice manager’s first instinct is to attempt to fix these problems with higher compensation, bonuses, or free lunches. But the reality is that in the long term people mostly crave work environments that are calm, efficient, organized, productive, and supportive. This is the fuel that sustains a happy work culture. If you aren’t providing this, the veterinarians and veterinary nurses of the future will seek it elsewhere.

So, if you’re running a growing veterinary hospital in 2020 and beyond...

🚨 You
🚨 must
🚨 start
🚨 prioritizing
🚨 workflow.

New year, new hospital. Here are some tips for successfully launching a workflow revolution in your veterinary hospital.

🤔 What is workflow?

Workflow is a non-sexy business word for the systems of work that pass from initiation to completion. In a veterinary practice, workflow is what happens from the minute the patient arrives to the minute they leave the hospital.

💡 Why is workflow important?

Ask yourself: What systems do you have in place to help your team document and track care and keep patients safe during their stay?And how can you automate those tasks for your team? If your practice is anything like the majority of the hospitals we work with, these systems haven’t been reevaluated in years. Remember, your systems shape every minute of your staff’s work life. Small improvements here yield outsized results.

🆘 Workflow vs Workaround

The current state of workflow in veterinary hospitals would be better termed workaround. Workarounds are the processes you create to overcome a problem or limitation in the tools you use. I bet you can think of a million of these you have in place right now. It’s time to replace them with something better.

How to Kick Off Your Workflow Revolution

👂 Start by Listening

Is your practice management team tucked away in an office? Change that for the next month by instituting embedded days when management works on the clinic floor. Get ready to learn all the ways your team thrives and struggles in their daily workflow—and start brainstorming better ways to work!

💻 Think ITSS (It’s the software, silly)

Everything starts with your software. High-quality workflow software is the most important gift you can give your team. In hospitals that use Instinct, teams spend most of their time in Instinct’s Treatment Plan, rather than their practice management software.

Instinct is open on every computer and shapes the day the most. I truly believe an investment here is the most effective and widespread action you can take to combat workaround culture.

🙌 Launch a Workflow Advisory Board

Start a dedicated committee that meets monthly and turns complaints into solutions. Create a shared Google Sheet where issues can be tracked one row at a time.

Not sure where to start? Try our template.

Then prioritize issues in your monthly meeting based on impact, and one-by-one, dream up solutions! Workflow is always changing, so constant improvement is key. Don’t forget to reward teammates who drive this initiative with a gift from time to time!

📞 Build a Personal Board of Directors

Conquering workflow challenges on your own can be intimidating. Build relationships with 2-3 people you trust who work at similar hospitals and can regularly share ideas and feedback when you get stuck.

🐱‍🐉 Cater to Your Dinosaurs

Remember that change is hard even for the best of us. And even good change is still change. Dinosaurs are the key teammates (often the best teammates) who resist change, especially new technology. Identify these teammates and provide them extra support and attention during transitions. Ignore this tip at your own peril.

✅ Take Full Advantage of New Software

Newer types of software offer fresh ways of automating tasks (ie, charge capture) that were never possible before. Your current charging structure is likely one giant workaround from days gone by. Do you have to charge that way? Is it possible to find a better and more automated way? If so, why not change it today? We'll have more on this soon!

🤸‍♂️ Just Do It

Every change you make can be easier for the team to accept if you consider it a “v1” approach. Version 1 approaches allow you to create mini-solutions, so you take one step forward at time instead of spending months waiting for the perfect fix.

Remember, how you communicate changes matters. I recommend ensuring that your team knows you are going into a change with a trial mentality: “If it sucks, we’ll change course or revert.”


Workarounds are like Band-Aids: they’re helpful in a pinch, but they’re temporary solutions, especially for bigger problems.

Make 2020 the year that your practice prioritizes workflow over workarounds, so the whole team can enjoy a calm, efficient, productive, and supportive work environment.

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